VHS to digital explained. Why you need to transfer your tapes NOW!

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VHS to digital. Why you need to transfer your tapes NOW!

Watching Vhs to Digital files on TV

Time waits for no one. Right now, there are many families around the world with hundreds of hours of home videos that are being erased, simply because time is running out & they have not transferred their VHS to digital.

I know what you are thinking. “This can’t happen”. “Mine are safe in a box”. Wrong!

To understand why, you need to know how videos are recorded onto tapes.

In it’s simplest form, when you watch a home video, it’s made possible because magnetic signals sent from a VCR or camera were stored onto the magnetic layer of a tape. However over time, the tape loses it’s magnetic properties & the content on these tapes is lost.

This is called the Magnetic Media Crisis & no tape is immune.

On average, the lifespan of a tape is 15-20 years. This suggests that video tapes that were used in the 1980’s, 90s and early 2000’s are about to lose their magnetism & the tapes will never be able to played again.

The Magnetic Media Crisis is made even worse by the advancement of technology.  VCR’s & tape based cameras are no longer being manufactured. 

Broken VHS Tape - Fix

The machines that play back these tapes are failing & no one is repairing them anymore because the skills are no longer there.

If you do not transfer your vhs to digital soon, or any tape for that matter, many tapes will be lost forever.

What happens when you transfer VHS to digital?

When you transfer a tape to digital, you are converting it from an analog format to a digital format, otherwise known as Digitising & the benefits include:

It’s Easier to watch

A VCR is a bulky device & it can be rather ugly to look at in todays modern homes. Chances are it is rarely used and safely in storage.  So having to pull it out and connect it up can be pain.  As is having the correct lead to connect the two. With digital files, watching them is as easy as putting a USB into the TV or watching them on your phone and screen sharing it to your TV.

Better editing options

When your footage is on a tape, you are very limited in how it can be edited. VHS tapes require 2 VCR’s for anytype of editing and it is quite time consuming, Once you transfer VHS to digital, your editing options open up dramatically. You can add music, edit out boring bits, add graphics and much more.  This alone is one of the main reasons people choose to transfer VHS to digital.

Easier to share

Once your tape is digitised, you can easily share it with family and friends, This is a huge benefit when sharing who live far away.  You can share it on youtube or other video sites & its certainly easier and less expensive than making copies of tapes.  With every analog copy that you make, the quality of the footage degrades. This does not happen when a digital copy is made.

How to transfer a VHS to digital?

The term digital, can refer to DVD or digital files such as MP4. There are a number of ways you can digitise video and camera tapes, but it does require a little bit of technical know how. I’ll outline these steps below.

Convert VHS to DVD

We don’t really recommend converting to DVD. As we explained earlier, technology is racing away and DVD technology is facing the same problems that VHS is experiencing.  People no longer watch DVDs. They prefer to stream rather than own discs. But DVD’s are still used and are ideal for the older generation who do not care for new technology.

To convert VHS to DVD, easily, you will need a DVD recorder. The recorder connects to the VCR player and it records the video signal, directly onto the DVD.

DVD recorder

Find a DVD recorder that lets you adjust the quality setting of the recording otherwise you may find that the video and audio quality of your tape is really poor. Once digitised, you can never get back the quality of your tape unless you re-do the process.

If you have a computer, find an analog to digital converter that can connect your computer to the VCR. Make sure that you have a fast computer and you have lots of space available. When complete, use the software that came with your analog to digital converter to convert your file into a MPEG2 file.  This is specific to DVD discs. Burn your DVD and correctly label it.

Convert camcorder tapes to digital

Your camcorder comes with video and audio connectors that connect to your computer or DVD Recorder.  Connect the yellow, red and white cables to the corresponding colour on each device.  The Yellow connector carries the video signal.  The Red and White cables carry stereo (Left and Right) audio sound.

composite cables transfer video

When converting camcorder tapes to DVD, make sure that you press record on your disc first and then press play on your camcorder. You would hate to miss any crucial footage if you pressed play first.

Be aware of video and audio dropouts during transfer. This could be because the heads of your camera are dirty & need cleaning.

Convert mini dv tapes to digital

Tapes that were filmed on miniDV tapes are already digital. Mini DV tapes had great quality pictures and sound & in order to ensure you kept this type of quality, you need to use the firewire cable that came with your camera.  This single cable carried both video and audio.

To convert mini dv tapes to digital on a DVD recorder, you need to ensure that the DVD recorder also has a firewire connector.

Once connected, set the input to DV on the DVD recorder, insert an appropriately sized blank DVD and press record. Then press play on your mini DV camera.

To convert mini dv tapes to digital on your computer, you will need a firewire capture device/card. These are hard to come by now as the technology has moved on greatly & they are prone to failing.

Find a VHS to Digital Service

Transferring tapes to digital at home can be a lengthy process. Understandably, you end up watching the tapes as you process them and you end up getting nothing done.  This is fine for retiree’s, but for busy people, Im sure there are better things to do with your time.

Find a video transfer service that has a proven track record in transferring videos.  Make sure they have Google reviews & they are good.

Choosing to use someone cheap isn’t always the best way when it comes to archiving your videos. At Home Video Rescue, 5% of our transfers are fixing audio, video or syncing issues of tapes transferred by people who run a side business and have no idea. And that figure is growing each year.

Make sure that the business you choose do NOT use DVD recorders to capture your videos.  Whilst it may be ok for you to use a DVD recorder, when you pay a business to transfer a videotape, they must do it correctly and capture to a computer for the best quality digital file. These companies capture to a DVD recorder using incorrect compression settings, which reduces the visual quality of your DVD.  They then RIP the disc and compress a MP4 file that has a further 25% quality loss. 

Look for USB and online options. Choosing a service that offers online as a delivery option allows you to have a backup solution should you misplace your USB.  An online delivery option also allows you to quickly share your videos with others for free, saving you the expense and hassle of providing multiple USB’s.

At Home Video Rescue, every order, regardless if it’s delivered on a USB or on DVD, is safely backed up online, for free, for 30 days. 

We also offer simple and affordable pricing.  All tapes, VHS, VHS-C, Hi-8, Digital8, Mini DV & Betamax, regardless of duration, are the same price to digitise.  That means if your tapes are 6 hours long, you pay the same low price as a 1 hour tape. We don’t believe that you should be penalised for having longer tapes, rather, you should be rewarded for capturing & preserving your families history.

If you would like to discuss your options with us, reach out to us in the chat, or give us a call. We’d be happy to help.

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